Fiction Reviews

Provender Gleed

(2005) James Lovegrove, Gollancz, 10.99, trdpbk, 331pp, ISBN 0-575-07684-4

I hadn't read a Lovegrove since Days, which I wasn't fabulously impressed with, so I approached this with some trepidation. And what I found was pretty much a fairy tale masquerading as SF, in much the same way that I thought Days was just a mainstream novel masquerading as SF. Anyway. It's an alternate present which follows a history in which the Borgias and the de Medicis united their families in the 17th century, effectively founding The Families (their modern day equivalent), members of which are like politicians, rock stars, monarchs and corporate heads (not to mention Mafia heads) all rolled into one. Which is nice. But then it just becomes standard fairy tale fare. British Family, the Gleeds, are still waiting for their son, Provender, to find a bride but, on the day of a big party on the Gleed's Estate, Dashlands, Provender is kidnapped by an anti-Familial revolutionary and his girl sidekick, Isis. The Gleeds, of course, suspect that it is actually another Family that is behind the kidnapping and, if Provender is not returned, there could be war in Europe. Meanwhile we discover that the revolutionaries 'bible' is actually written by none other than... Oh, you've guessed it. So will everyone. Anyway, Provender - surprise, surprise - falls in love with Isis, escapes with her to the bad estates where the underclasses live, so he can have an epiphany and use his vast wealth to get some trees planted, or some such nonsense. Then it's all about getting back to the Gleed ranch and setting the record straight and averting the war, and there were a couple of "Anagrammatic Detectives" wandering around for comic relief, and probably some other stuff too. I yawned my way to the novel's conclusion, where All Comes Right In The End, and then made my decision to never read a Lovegrove book again. Don't get me wrong; it's not that it's bad, it's just that I can't be bothered with this stuff. I'm sure some people like it and, if you've enjoyed Lovegrove in the past, then chances are you will again. But I'd rather read some real SF - life's too short for substitutes!

Tony Chester

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